Is Your Nighttime Teeth Cleaning Routine Missing Something?

teeth cleaningFor most of us, we learned the importance of good dental health when we were young children and reminded of the importance of brushing our teeth.

Then as we became more awkward in our teen years, many of us brushed our teeth because to have bad breath or – worse yet – something in between our teeth was the end of the world.

Ah, teenage drama.

So by the time we reach adulthood, most of us have a teeth cleaning method in place that seems to be working just fine.

Or does it?

The mouth is a warm dark space. And bacteria is a huge fan of warm and dark, where it breeds and multiplies. So just imagine what’s going on in there at night.

Your nighttime teeth cleaning routine may not working as well as you think.

And the results of ineffective teeth cleaning can be a whole lot more serious than bad breath.

Give me a break, you might say. I brush, I floss and I use a mouthwash every night. What else can I possibly do?

Brushing, flossing and using mouthwash are essential.

And if you’re doing these three things, you’re off to a good start. But it’s not about what else you can do, it’s about HOW you’re doing these three actions.

So let’s break it down.

It would seem natural that the first step would be brushing, but we’re going to start with flossing.

Flossing 101.

Flossing is really important. It should be done at least once per day. So if you’re doing it just once, then do it at bedtime.

When you clean between your teeth, you reach plaque that you can’t normally get at with a toothbrush. And flossing also helps prevent gum disease.

But here’s why we’re putting it first in your nighttime teeth cleaning routine.

Try flossing BEFORE you brush.

Most people tend to floss after they brush. It makes sense, right?

Even so, it’s recommended that you try flossing before you brush. Doing this allows you to remove food particles stuck between your teeth and gums so that those parts of your mouth will get a better scrubbing when you brush.

Makes sense, right?.

You need 18 inches of floss and some serious technique.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using an 18-inch-long string of floss. By using a longer length, you can wind most of it around your middle fingers to better manage it as it gets used.

Then follow these steps:

  1. Hold the remaining floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
  2. Use a rubbing motion to guide the floss between your teeth.
  3. Curve the floss into a C shape against each tooth as you near the gum line.
  4. Move the floss back and forth against the tooth as you go.
  5. When you get to the root of the tooth, slide the floss into the space between the gum and the tooth.
  6. Use an up-and-down motion to floss away from the gum.
  7. Repeat for the rest of your teeth.
  8. Don’t forget the backsides of your last teeth on the top and bottom.

And keep in mind that flossing should be done gently.

In your teeth cleaning frenzy, you might be really serious about removing that plaque before it becomes tartar. But you don’t need to punish your gums in the process.

If flossing is tough, look into flossing alternatives.

Don’t despair if maneuvering floss is tough for you. You’re not alone.

That’s why there are things like floss picks where the floss is mounted between two ends so you don’t have to handle the floss yourself. Plus, they have a handy-dandy handle to get the pick easily between your teeth.

And if those don’t work, look into electric flossing machines that spray a jet of water between your teeth. (You might know them better under the brand name WaterPik).

Once the flossing is done, you can move on to the next step in your teeth cleaning regimen.

Brushing 101

When it comes to brushing at night, whether you hit the brush shortly after dinner or right before heading to bed depends on whether you’re at higher or lower risk for dental diseases.

Your dentist can help you determine your risk factor.

Brush your teeth like you mean it.

Do you zip into the bathroom to do a slapdash, so-so job of brushing? Well, don’t.

But don’t scrub them so hard that you run the risk of creating damage.

You should be gently brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush for a minimum of two minutes to really get at that plaque and to ensure that the bacteria that produces it doesn’t take over while you’re sleeping.

If you don’t remove the plaque, it becomes tartar which can cause inflammation and bleeding gums. This could eventually mean losing teeth.

Once again, it’s in the technique.

Here’s one of the best techniques for brushing:

  1. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
  2. Move it back and forth GENTLY.
  3. Brush each tooth surface about 15 times.
  4. Get way back to your molars and apply a circular clockwise and counterclockwise movements.
  5. Clean the back of your front teeth by placing the brush vertically against the back of the teeth and brushing up and down.

And while you’re at it, brush your tongue too. While teeth cleaning is the focus, remember that the tongue is no stranger to bacteria.

Is your toothpaste from the dollar store?

If it is, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as it has the seal of acceptance from the ADA.

The ADA has rigorous standards and will only put their seal of acceptance on toothpaste that contains the proper amount of fluoride for certain age groups.

Make the experience electric.


Using an electric toothbrush in your teeth cleaning routine can actually remove twice as much plaque as brushing manually. If you can, find a sonic electric toothbrush. They offer the proper movements of the above brushing technique, and are more gentle on your teeth.

Rinsing with Mouthwash 101

This subject doesn’t really warrant the 101. It’s pretty straightforward.

Simply put, rinsing with a mouthwash will give you fresher breath, reduce plaque and cavities, and protect your gums from gingivitis. So why not use it?

Just look for one that is antimicrobial and/or fluoride-based and follow the directions on the bottle.

Then head off to bed. Your nighttime teeth cleaning routine is complete!

If there’s anything else you think should be added to the routine, or if you have questions, let us know.